Martin was worried about his father. It had been about three months since his mother had passed after a long illness. His father could still physically do most things for himself but he’d grown so weak, tired and unmotivated that Martin hired a senior care agency to help around the house. Irritable and angry, his father seemed to lash out at everyone, from adult children and senior care aides to old friends and extended relatives.
Also, his father had become emotionally withdrawn, extremely anxious and didn’t seem to be sleeping well. He had stopped gardening and watching baseball, his two favorite hobbies. Martin wondered if perhaps his father needed some mental health treatment before things got any worse.
Traumatic events can leave a huge psychological impact on people, often enough to affect their ability to function at normal levels. From witnessing a traumatic event to encountering a personal experience of injury, serious illness, assault, serious accidents, natural disasters, death of a loved one or the threat of death, mental trauma is especially common in seniors. If your aging loved one is acting differently after a traumatic event, do not delay in getting them the mental health care and treatment they need to best deal with it.
More on Mental Trauma in Seniors
Until the last 50 years or so, the condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder was unknown and definitely untreated. It was first researched in relation to soldiers returning from war that exhibited significant mental health problems as a result of trauma. Seniors face a unique number of age-related challenges due to aging that fewer people in the younger generations must deal with. Many of these are considered traumatic events.
When someone experiences trauma, they go through different states of shock, sadness, fear, anxiety, anger and depression. If left untreated, the victim can essentially shut down and they are no longer able to carry out their normal daily activities. PTSD can persist for many years. If your elderly loved one is experiencing similar issues, you should make plans for a professional evaluation for them.
Symptoms of PTSD in Seniors
Symptoms of PTSD are generally similar for all age groups, however, seniors are often misdiagnosed because many of the symptoms mimic age-related conditions. Common symptoms for PTSD include insomnia, flashbacks and nightmares, depression, withdrawal from activities, irritability, anger, and self-destructive behavior. Symptoms generally appear within 3 to 4 months of the traumatic event. It’s not unusual for victims of PTSD to turn to substance abuse as a way to deal with the emotional pain.
Treating PTSD in Seniors
The good news is that PTSD in seniors is treatable as long as they get consistent counseling and often take prescribed medication to lessen the effects of the trauma. When helping an elderly loved one find a therapist, make sure they specialize in trauma treatments for maximum effect. It will be easy for struggling seniors to avoid going to therapy, so make sure transportation is arranged via friends, family members or senior care aides.
Significant life changes and emotional shock have a strong effect on everyone, but seniors are especially vulnerable and are the least likely group to seek out mental health treatments. Loving family members and friends can help ease your aging loved one’s condition by providing support and clearing the way for professional treatment to begin.
If you or an aging loved-one is considering in-home senior care in Old City, PA, please contact the caring staff at Assisting Hands of Central Philadelphia. 215-274-0900.
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